Bristol 2016

13015535_1337878316238693_5817635690488330792_nIt seems like a while since we raced, perhaps because all the Henleys were over so early this Winter, so the morning get up was quite a shock to the system (but then every morning is a shock to the system to me). I’d attempted to put everything together the night before but even so it was still a struggle. Andy Brinkley left to meet Ben in the carpark. A few moments (possibly longer) I was there too, scraping frost off the car while Andy blinked at me in wonderment (he often does). ‘What were you doing?’ I blinked, slowly registering he was implying I’d been a long time. ‘Putting my shoes on.’ My calm, patient, do-I-need-to-say-anymore reply.

The journey was simple, thanks to an up-date of the sat-nav. We arrived to a sea of red all patiently trying to work out how to pay for parking. Is it a club ethos to try and avoid parking fees? Two tickets and number plate requests were stumping a number of us. Then there was the slight panic of ‘It only says till 2pm?!’ We decided on mass to ignore and concentrate instead on the business of boat launching.

One of my favourite things on a race day is seeing Brian first thing. Firstly it means the boats are here. Bonus. Secondly he’s always so cheerful, he must be a morning person. Nikki was co-pilot. I have a suspicion she might be a morning person too. We got ourselves organised and launched Chilli safely, newly painted head and tail ready for racing (thanks to Lisa Whitehouse).

CMT (Elmira on the day) had sorted the crews, managing to get seats on boats for everyone wanting to race. We teamed up with Excalibur for our second crew, but we also had Helio on a Bristol boat- the helm was so impressed with him he actually bumped a Bristol paddler off and put Helio on for the 200m final and the 3.5k. The composite Excalibur and Worcester crew (including Marco- first time out in a Worcester race shirt) also did really well, with a 1.12.82 as their best time on the 200m, firmly beating Amathus Bees amongst others! It was a busy day, and yet not busy. An awful lot of lag-time between races. And would someone please think of the men! Junior and Ladies racing first meant an awfully long time to digest bacon sarnies at a leisurely rate. Russ, the coiled spring, and Bob, the gazelle, found it particularly difficult I think. The waits seemed to make us feel the cold more than usual.

And the Dragons? After hanging around so long we seemed slightly rushed onto the boat for our first race at 11.05 (alongside us, Katha in her first race in a red Worcester top). Luckily Kieran could do no wrong in the officials’ eyes. ‘You’re late Worcester’. Quick reply, ‘It’s the baby’s fault.’ Time trial time. 200m in lane 3. Bristol and Excalibur. Our time a respectable 1.06.96 but a very quick rate and possibly some shortening, but we were in the mix, looking at Major or Minor Final territory. Next race- we agreed a strong start and more control in the stroke was needed. Time trial time again. Lane 1 this time, against Bristol and Thames. Lane 1 definitely a smoother run. There’s some strange water in 3 where a channel of water enters the harbour but we’d also sorted out a stronger, more controlled stroke. The 200m course was probably a little over- it certainly felt that way. We bagged ourselves a 1.08 but other crews had run slower in the second round too. Perhaps a pick up in wind? Time trial 3. Lane 2. Bristol- again- and Pink Champagne. 1.07. Placing us in the Minor Final (called Major Final as we had a Grand Final too!). Lane 3. Bristol (our old friends) and Henley. 1.07 time and second, beating Bristol, and placing us 5th overall.

Now all we had left was a mere 3.5k. Going off just after- you guessed it- Bristol! It felt strong all the way through. The training in the lead up had certainly helped me prepare, and I’m sure the rest of the crew felt the same. Those slogs up-stream on the Severn certainly made this race feel possible. We lost a little on the turns but a good pick up and we were on our way back, fighting to get on Bristol’s tail. Wraysbury pulled alongside and we kept with them for a fair while, calling for power and length all the way. Into the second turn and then a drive for the line, building power with every stroke, still trying to close in on Bristol. The result? Worcester 6th, 2 seconds behind Bristol.

Not a bad start for the race season. Bring on Crosby!